The airline could not apologise to the passengers.
Dozens of passengers were on Friday night till Saturday morning stranded at the Abuja airport as the airline they paid to transport them failed to do so.
The passengers had each paid several thousands of naira to be flown by Aero Contractors to Lagos from the Nigerian capital.
The flight, AJ132, was scheduled to leave Abuja at 6:30p.m. on Friday
In what has become a norm among domestic airlines operating in Nigeria, the flight was announced to have been delayed. Early on Friday, the passengers got a message from the airline announcing a delay in the flight by about 3 hours.
“This is to inform you that our flight AJ132 from Abuja to Lagos Today the 8th of November 2013, has been rescheduled to 21:40hrs due to operational reasons. Check in starts two (2) hours before and ends forty(40) minutes before departure. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. For rescheduling, please call: 01-6284140 or mail email@example.com,” the airline said in the message sent to the passengers.
Many of the passengers arrived earlier than two hours before 9:40 p.m. for the trip.
“Based on their message, I got to the airport around 7:30 p.m.,” one of the affected passengers, Charles Musa, said.
Before 9:30 p.m., the airport announcer announced that the flight had been further delayed with many of the passengers lamenting the situation.
“They still announced and assured us that we were going to fly to Lagos. And so when they announced that a plane had landed from Lagos, we were asked to queue up for boarding,” Mr. Musa, a Lagos-based lawyer said.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the plane from Lagos, which was also a delayed flight, arrived Abuja some minutes before 12 midnight.
After the passengers in the plane disembarked, the Lagos-bound passengers queued and were ready to board.
“Surprisingly, the pilot just came out with his crew and said he was not told to fly back to Lagos. He said he would not fly,” Mr. Musa said.
The passengers were thus left stranded at the tarmac around midnight with no official announcement about their flight from Aero. Some junior staff of the airline, however, told them they would be flown to Lagos at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday but kept mum on where the passengers would stay for the next seven hours before the flight.
The Abuja airport is one of many being remodelled by the aviation ministry, with only makeshift facilities available for both arriving and departing passengers. The airport currently has no facility for a resting area or a hotel.
“Some of us decided to go sleep inside the plane as no other provision was made for us by Aero.
“The plane was locked, but there was another Aero plane nearby. About 30 passengers including foreigners therefore went to sleep inside the other plane,” Mr. Musa said.
The passengers were, however, asked to leave the plane by soldiers at about 3:00 a.m. on Saturday with many of them sleeping on the floor at arrival lounge of the airport.
Aero, which says its mission is to “provide a safe, reliable, efficient and competitive service to our customers”. again delayed its flight on Saturday morning, with the almost 60 passengers finally travelling to Lagos at about 8:00 a.m.
“ We left Abuja at 8:00 a.m. No apologies, no compensation from Aero. It was sad, one of the passengers was at the airport since 1:00 p.m. on Friday,” Mr. Musa said.
Aero Contractors, which won the ‘Best West African Airline of the Year 2012 Award’ at the West African Tourism and Hospitality Awards, refused to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry on the treatment of the passengers, and any possible compensation.
Its spokesperson, Simon Tumba, did not pick his calls, return calls or reply to a text message sent to his phone.
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